Days after being called as the first Nigerian and West African-born General Authority Seventy, Elder Adeyinka A. Ojediran was still trying to grasp — intellectually, spiritually and emotionally — the “unforgettable weekend” that was the 2020 April general conference.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant Elder Ojediran and his wife, Sister Olufunmilayo Ojediran — along with every other Latter-day Saint around the globe — were experiencing general conference in an unprecedented manner defined by social distancing and restrictions on public gatherings.
But more importantly, the worldwide conference delivered moments of eternal importance that will bless the lives of the Ojedirans and legions of other members in Western Africa long after the ongoing health crisis is claimed by history books.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said, smiling broadly. “To hear our prophet say another temple would be built in Nigeria was really, really wonderful. For me, it was a confirmation that the work of the Lord is moving quickly.
“We all have a lot to do to prepare His children for His Second Coming.”
The Ojedirans waited reverently for the general conference to end. They rejoiced as the celebratory texts, phone calls and WhatsApp messages began filling their devices.
“It went on for hours,” he said, smiling.
On a more personal level, the Church convert was feeling the heavy weight of his new calling.
“I have such feelings of inadequacy — but I also feel such trust and faith in the Lord, knowing that whom the Lord calls, He qualifies,” he said. “If I try to stay on the straight and narrow path, and rely upon the Spirit and the teachings of the Brethren, I can grow in confidence and stature and fulfill this new calling.”
The invitation to become a General Authority Seventy impacts more than the individual who is publicly sustained by millions of members. The life of the new elder’s wife also changes forever. The companion of each new General Authority simultaneously begins their own new season of service.
Sister Ojediran said her husband’s recent ecclesiastical responsibility prompted tears of joy.
“I had a strong desire at that moment to do everything I could do to serve the Lord,” she said. “I know that God has a plan for us. … We are praying that Heavenly Father can help us through this journey.”
Born in 1967 in the city of Ibadan in southwestern Nigeria, young Adeyinka Ojediran was always spiritually sensitive and drawn to the teachings of Christ. He discovered the restored Church as a university student when an acquaintance introduced him to the full-time missionaries. Adeyinka enjoyed speaking with the elders, but he wasn’t yet ready to commit to baptism.
Joining the Church, he said, “wasn’t an easy proposition.” He was raised in the Baptist faith and possessed a deep love for the Bible. But the teachings of the missionaries — coupled with the promptings of the Spirit — ultimately moved the young man to action.
“What actually touched me was the invitation to study the Book of Mormon and pray,” he said. “I felt the need to go to my knees and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me. I experienced an inner peace that taught me to be more open to the teachings of the missionaries.”
His invocations also filled him with courage.
“I was prepared then to be baptized. The Spirit guided me as I grew in the knowledge of the gospel.”
A fellow convert, Sister Ojediran was baptized in 1994, a year after she met the man who would become her husband. The two met at a social function and soon developed a friendship. Employment in two different cities meant initially maintaining a long-distance relationship, keeping in touch over the telephone whenever possible.
“We started dating in 1994 and got married in 1998 — we dated for too long,” said Elder Ojediran, laughing.
Becoming Latter-day Saints forever changed the young couple’s life path. It strengthened and deepened their relationship with the Savior, and with one another.
“As a child, I always loved Jesus Christ and wanted to serve Him,” said Elder Ojediran. “Being a member of His Church has given me a better understanding of the plan of salvation, the Atonement and the opportunities I have to repent and be forgiven.
“That has helped me draw closer to the Lord.”
The newly called General Authority has learned personal spiritual advancement comes from reading the scriptures and trying to become a little more like the Savior each day.
“It is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a marathon.”
Partaking of the sacrament also allows Elder Ojediran a weekly opportunity to measure his worthiness. “The sacrament helps me to watch what I do and what I say. It also helps me receive the promptings of the Spirit.”
Added power comes from faithfully accepting and fulfilling Church assignments. “Having callings and responsibilities — and knowing what is expected of me — has always helped me.”
Meanwhile, being a Latter-day Saint plays a central role in Sister Ojediran’s opportunities as a wife, a mother and a sister serving in the Relief Society. She shares her husband’s love for renewing baptismal covenants each week.
“I am blessed in so many ways when I partake of the sacrament — I never want to miss it,” she said. “I want to serve the Lord and love being able to pray to Him. The Church has helped me learn to love people and it continues to bless me in so many ways.”
As African Latter-day Saints, the Ojedirans believe the future knows no limits in their homeland, adding that the vast continent will one day be flush with stakes and temples.
“If you look at the rate of growth in, say, Nigeria over the past few years, it has been exponential,” said Elder Ojediran. “We can only expect that trajectory of growth to continue.”
But with growth comes challenges. It is vital that the African Latter-day Saints firmly answer the call to be strong priesthood and Relief Society leaders “to manage that exponential growth,” he said.
The Church’s ministering principles will allow local leaders to develop and serve their fellow members in their own communities and nations. Like many other regions in the world, the Latter-day Saints in Africa are enjoying increased access to the temple — hastening the work of the Lord.
Now Elder Ojediran is eager to again get to work and magnify his calling.
“The messages I will share as a General Authority Seventy will be no different than the messages I shared as a bishop, a stake president or an Area Seventy,” he said. “I want to help people understand the plan of salvation and to realize their true nature as sons and daughters of God.”